Father Anthony’s pictures from the November 20, 2010 cardinal creating consistory.
Father Anthony’s initial reflections from attending the November 20, 2010 consistory.
Father Anthony’s post consistory notes. November 28, 2010.
Pope Benedict is a highly intelligent man and an outstanding theologian. This would be true even if he had never become a bishop or indeed the Pope. There is really no need to interpret his words. They are clear, and the meaning is clear. He is not questioning the teaching on contraception as spelt out by Pope Paul VI in the Encyclical Letter Humanae Vitae, and repeated on many occasions by Pope John Paul II. Pope Benedict is responding to a specific question regarding difficult situations and moral choices.
Pope Paul was concerned with the question of sexuality in marriage. He teaches that there are two essential; aspects to married sexuality. It is at once “love-making” and “life-giving”. To separate these two aspects by the use of “artificial contraception” is to go against the will of God, and is thus wrong. Pope Paul does not discuss at all the question of sex outside marriage in this encyclical because it is not relevant. The Church clearly regards sex outside marriage in any form as wrong, and prohibited by the moral law. His concern is specifically with married sexuality.
Many pastors and moral theologians have given thought to the moral issues involved when people engaging in sexual activity outside marriage choose to make use of condoms or other forms of contraception that do not involve abortion. It has seemed to many that in an already objectively sinful situation the use of condoms would certainly not make the situation worse, and might be sign of some degree of moral responsibility.
As I understand the Holy Father’s words in the interview, this is precisely the point that he is making. It is newsworthy in that it is the first time that a Pope has made this point explicitly, but it does not represent in itself any change in Catholic teaching. Inevitably there will those who would apply a similar reasoning to other situations where the use of condoms could contribute to saving lives. That is an important debate, and there is no uniformity even at the highest levels in the Church on that question. Some will certainly find in the Holy Father’s words encouragement to give further thought to these very difficult situations, but, to my mind, what the Pope has actually said represents no change in teaching, but reveals what we already know; namely that Benedict XVI is a shepherd who knows how to give wise and prudent advice to those in need.